Q: The Winged Serpent (1982, Larry Cohen)

“Maybe his head just got loose and fell off.”

Shitty scat-singing pianist turned incompetent diamond thief Jimmy Quinn stumbles across the nest of a winged monster that has been terrorizing New York, snatching up rooftop sunbathers and window washers, and tries to use this knowledge for profit. As in God Told Me To, Cohen shines in picking up crowd scenes seemingly out in public and not on a closed set. I like that Cohen casts skilled but unattractive actors – lead cop David Carradine (Kill Bill, Boxcar Bertha) and thief Michael Moriarty (The Stuff, Pick Me Up) don’t seem much like movie leading men, but they’re perfect for this story.

Moriarty is dwarfed by the city:

Murderous cultist takes a volunteer:

Moriarty is the fascinatingly doomed, black center of the movie, on the run from his partners in the jewel heist he botched, but Carradine and his partner Richard “Shaft” Roundtree kill time trying to solve a series of grotesque murders, apparently committed by a cult trying to appease the beast. I have to question the skills of the investigators when Moriarty is brought into the station for beating a security guard who works at the top of the Chrysler building, and they continue to bargain with Moriarty, offering him a million (which he never gets) to tell them which tall building hosts the monster. Besides that little plot hole, it’s a pretty great movie.

“I can’t imagine that the monster would want to kill YOU, Richard Roundtree.”

The monster, just after crushing Richard Roundtree’s spine and dropping him 200 stories:

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